Building and restructuring the union

It is a general practice that NUPSAW like any other progressive organization and trade union requires new strategies in order to effectively respond to external and internal challenges.

 Sectoral and occupational shifts in employment continue to erode traditional union stronghold, while social and ideological changes undermine workers’ traditional orientation to collectivism.

What used to be taken for granted twenty-five years ago – the ability of a young couple to buy a house, build a career after graduating and expect to live at least as well, if not better, than our parents – has evaporated. Anger and rage are rising. But we continue to be so marginalised, directionless and free of compelling reasons to attract new un-unionized members.

We are consistently reminded that only 30 % of the South African workforce belong to trade unions yet we have never formulated a strategy of targeting the 70 % and simply recycle what we have as unions. For us as NUPSAW the situation is so dire that we simply lack the organising philosophy and capacity of reaching out to our own members to a point that we even rely on the employer to easily and quickly disseminate information to them.  We cannot even counter the negative information our rival unions disseminate to NUPSAW members.

Today’s meeting is about identifying one strategy, populating it in the form of a national program and implementing it.

What do we mean by trade union strategy and how can it be modernised and made known to every member of our union?

The word strategy was first used by the military and is derived from the Greek word strategos. It refers to planning and conduct of campaigns, the movement, and disposition of forces, and the deception of the enemy in order to conquer.

A strategy differs from tactics.

Tactics is the military science employed to secure objectives defined as part of the military strategy, especially the methods whereby men, equipment, aircraft, finance, ships and weapons are employed and directed against an enemy. This means the equipment to carry out your plan.

Our strategies as NUPSAW should be based on the Constitution, in particular, our vision. In order to become the biggest and most progressive trade union in the public and private sectors, we need to create structures. If we can have all the relevant structures in all the Provinces, our task would be much easier. But unfortunately, that is where we are lacking.

Comrades, during the last two years our National Treasurer came up with a very brilliant idea called ideal membership budget allocation which became a resolution of the National Executive Council. Perhaps the failure of that resolution was the plan to ensure that all Provinces implement it, report regularly and based on the monitoring and evaluation, what was to be done at what intervals in case it did not yield the anticipated results.

Be that as it may, we all committed ourselves to its implementation and to ensure that at least we grow our Union to 60 000 members. That should have been NUPSAW’s moment. There were minimum growth and some provinces instead of prioritizing growth regarded that as an increase in their allocation and spent it on traveling and accommodation with no tangible results.

We also failed to be the leading voice when the whole country became discontent with South Africa’s socio-economic and political issues including the campaign that was driven by tertiary students for quality and free education and our deafening silence was therefore mistaken to be in agreement with the repressive legislation of the ruling party towards its people and the workers in particular. We had and continue to lack the machinery to advocate this as NUPSAW due to the failure of how we structured the Communication division.

This year we need to change all of that if we are to make inroads in all departments and big companies.

We will be embarking on a national program of rebuilding, revitalization and capacity building of the lower structures, in particular, the branches where campaigns should be happening.

As NUPSAW we need to be more appealing to new members. What is it that we are doing wrong that other unions are doing right? The simple and very basic reality is that we do not have structures in place. We only have the Provincial Executive Council and the National Executive Council. That is why as the NEC we think we represent ourselves, hence members on the ground are not provided with the information that is known to us.

Can we as NUPSAW afford to talk about vigorous recruitment campaigns when there are no formal structures in place to drive such massive projects? Do we have sufficient members in institutions and can we reach them?

We resolved as the NEC to buy provinces machines to reproduce membership cards. Can we be honest and say that when the National Office Bearers visit provinces we will no longer hear members complaining about membership cards. 

Do our Regions and Branches know the SAFTU national programs and how have we contributed to the success of these or are these only known by a few elite NEC members? Do we have the same understanding of what constitutes a Region and a Branch? How are we going to ensure that that changes going forward from today? How are we going to ensure that NUPSAW participates maximally in the federation campaigns and programs? What makes other affiliates to be so visible in SAFTU activities and NUPSAW so conspicuous? Is it a matter of financial resources, lack of structures or both?

Can we all as Provinces give a comprehensive report on the Community Health Workers in terms of how many in Health and Social Development and how many are our members? Which Provinces have Dis– chem pharmacies and how many in those belong to us?

So, the remaining ten months are going to be a NUPSAW National Program of building, restructuring, electing shop stewards and shop stewards committees, establishing strong and vibrant Branches and Regions which will lead to Provinces that we all can be proud of.

But the real task starts here today. None of us must, therefore, take this day as one of those wasted days. Let us all focus and spend less time posting on social media as the Media Liaison Department will do that on our behalf.

Thank you, comrades !!!!!!!!!!!!!